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Poll: white people aren’t exactly woke, but they are now slightly less comatose about racism

As black people report less unfair treatment, white people are more likely to acknowledge it.

A Black Lives Matter rally in Australia. Scott Barbour/Getty Images

There is still a lot of denial about whether racism is real. But a new survey from Gallup shows there's just a little less of that denial going around.

Gallup asked respondents if black people in their communities are treated less fairly than their white counterparts in five settings: a store; a restaurant, bar, theater, or other entertainment place; work; in dealings with the police; and while getting health care.

More than 80 percent of black Americans have consistently answered that they are treated unfairly, going back to at least 2004 and 2007.

But in a new development, way more white people are acknowledging that black people are treated unfairly. In 2004 and 2007, about 37 percent of white people said black people are treated less fairly in any of these five settings. In 2015 and 2016, that rose to 46 percent — a more than 24 percent increase.

The result of a Gallup poll on perceptions of racism by white and black people. Gallup

Is this because black people are now treated more unfairly? It sure doesn’t seem that way: In 2004, 59 percent of black people said they had been treated unfairly because they were black in the five settings. Over the past few years, that’s hovered between 43 and 46 percent — around a 25 percent drop.

So what’s changing? It seems white people are getting a little more woke.

In this year’s poll, both black and white people saw more discrimination in policing than in other situations: While 67 percent of black people and 40 percent of white people said black people are treated less fairly in dealings with the police, the other settings topped at 52 percent for black people and 17 percent for white people.

That could suggest that the Black Lives Matter movement and related protests over racial disparities in the criminal justice system are having an impact.

In other words, it’s not that things are getting worse; it’s that white people are getting better at acknowledging a problem that black communities have complained about for generations.

As comedian Chris Rock once put it to New York magazine:

So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he's the first black person that is qualified to be president. That's not black progress. That's white progress. There's been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years. … The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let's hope America keeps producing nicer white people.


Watch: Why recording the police is so important

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